This was the original sketch, in my sketchbook, from several years ago. The challenge here was to make a scene where people are being obviously menaced by something invisible.
Yeah, I don't pick easy subjects!
When I was poking at the theme and ideas for the next anthology, this sketch occurred to me, as it had potential to be a dynamic and interesting cover scene that hinted well at some of the major conflicts we'd be looking at.
Of course, right now, it's not really laid out to be a cover... too much is happening right where words should be, and there's no back cover wraparound. Also, it was relatively small and in a flimsy sketchbook. Time to transfer to a large block of watercolor paper!
This is 14" x 20" Arches hotpress paper, the same block I painted Journey on for the first anthology. (Though in that case, the painting came before the anthology idea...) The details are rough at this stage, just blocking in a scene for the backcover (Birka, swinging a sling, and her snow-unicorns) and the far background (the Great Northern Rim, an escarpment along the northern edge of the Empire).
Showing... or not showing... the Others is a bit of a tricky thing. Northern characters can see them, but Empire citizens lack that ability. My solution here (tentatively!) is to show the Others on the back cover, where Birka would be able to see them, but divide the cover so that the southerners, on the front cover, can't see them. A single Other coming out of the ground in the center (to show on the spine), would show exactly halfway across. Hopefully this will convey the idea of seeing/not seeing them. I don't actually intend to paint in the Others, but to add them digitally after the painting is finished, so this will be easier to play with at that point.
I wanted to give this a good sense of urgency and action, so I drew Jerumal (central figure on the front cover) running. My husband's comment: "Is she holding up her dress?" *facepalm* Since this is intended to be a man, and he should be a leader rather than a chicken, this pose isn't really working.
I played with a more static pose, but it still isn't reading very strong, very alarmed or very... anything. Is he waving? (He's supposed to be bringing the people behind him to a stop...) I also broke out the ruler and started laying out real perspective lines on the building below.
I got out some old anatomy books, did some research, and started working up a more classically heroically proportioned figure (he'll get clothing!). I also discovered that Frazetta really hated drawing feet, apparently. But his head! Yikes! Wrong angle!
Better. His right arm still needs to angle back into the drawing more.
And, that's where I am now. Paints are in the mail to me (should be here in a few days!!) and I would love to have the sketch finished by the time they get here. I will be doing this in acrylics, with touches of colored pencils. I'm toying with the idea of bringing Birka closer on the back cover, away from the knot of snow-unicorns, so we can see the sling a little better, but that might not leave enough blank space for the blurb.
Any thoughts, comments, redlines or suggestions you have are very, very welcome!